There are things that have gone right on the mound — the Fresno State Bulldogs are ranked in the top half of the Mountain West Conference in strikeouts, in hits allowed and in earned run average, have allowed three runs or fewer 17 times. But still a lack of execution throughout their pitching staff has hurt at times and it did again on Sunday in dropping the decisive game of a three-game series to San Diego State at Beiden Field.
In a 9-4 victory the Aztecs took advantage of more than enough of the opportunities that the Bulldogs presented to them, as they had one night earlier in racking up 15 runs.
“Same deal as last night exactly,” coach Mike Batesole said. “We played some outstanding defense — we had four great plays today and didn’t make an error. There were 12 hits and six balls that I counted that were barreled up that were hit hard ... but you have five walks or hit batters that scored again.
“You’re not going to win in this conference if you do that. You’re asking way too much to overcome of your offense and your defense. You’ve got to throw the ball over the plate. Every board of every coach in the history of baseball has got first-pitch strike on it and leadoff man out. We didn’t invent that. Winning baseball teams do that. That means you have to throw the ball over the plate 0-0 and you have to trust your stuff.”
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The first of the San Diego State runs, coming in the second inning, summed up fairly well a rough weekend that had started with a Friday victory.
Sophomore Jimmy Lambert gave up a one-out single to Chase Calabuig, and the Aztecs’ right fielder moved into scoring position on a wild pitch.
Lambert was able to get a strikeout and a second out, but with first base open and two outs Fresno State had a choice of pitching to the left-handed hitting Spencer Thornton or the right-handed hitting Alan Trejo, the No. 8 and No. 9 hitters in the San Diego State lineup. Thornton was batting .250, Trejo .240. The Bulldogs went with the righty-righty matchup, Lambert intentionally walking Thornton.
But Lambert ended up nicking Trejo with his first pitch to the Aztecs’ No. 9 hitter, loading the bases. He then walked Steven Pallares to end an 11-pitch duel to force in a run, Pallares fouling off four pitches at 1-2 and a fifth at 3-2 before taking ball four.
The Aztecs (29-16, 16-8 in the MW) added five runs in the third against Lambert, a rally that started with a one-out walk to catcher Seby Zavala and included another free base when Lambert plunked Calabuig to load the bases.
In the series Fresno State walked 16 batters, hit nine and threw four wild pitches, and 13 of those batters eventually came around to score including 12 in the losses on Saturday and Sunday that cost the Bulldogs (21-23, 11-10) a chance to move up in the conference standings.
“You have to throw the ball over the plate,” Batesole said. “You have to trust your stuff and if you don’t trust your stuff, it shows. Jimmy has got good enough stuff. Sometimes I think that we trust it more than he does. You just have to throw the ball over the plate.
“I wasn’t watching the radar gun, but I’m guessing their starter was probably in the 85, 87, 86, 84 range, I wasn’t really watching, but he was throwing it over the plate. Our guy is throwing 90 and not throwing it over the plate.”